By Harry Hitzeman
Chicago Daily Herald
July 1, 2015
A Kane County judge will decide later this month whether a strip-search of a Minnesota man after a traffic stop near Elgin was legal and if drugs found during it should be admissible in court.
Ismael Jaimes-Meza, 23, of St. Paul, is charged with possession of marijuana and possession of methamphetamine with intent to deliver, a felony that carries a six- to 30-year prison term if convicted.
Meza's defense attorney, Kathleen Colton, argued Wednesday a roadside search and subsequent strip search at the sheriff's department lacked probable cause and were based on a "hunch" from an overzealous Kane County Sheriff Sgt. Ron Hain, who is assigned to drug interdiction detail on Interstates 88 and 90.
"This is such an egregious affront to the Fourth Amendment from the beginning," Colton said.
Meza was a passenger in a vehicle that was stopped for improper display of a handicapped placard and an obstructed windshield on April 15, 2015. The driver received a warning, but Hain said he smelled a marijuana odor coming from the vehicle and searched Meza, Colton said.
Hain found $4,000 on Meza's person, but no drugs. Meza said the money was from his tax return. Hain testified that Meza was investigated for possible money laundering and Hain searched the vehicle, even using a drill to disassemble some parts of the vehicle, but did not find any more cash or drugs, Colton said.
"They should have been let go. The warning notice had been issued. (Hain) hasn't found anything and he's not satisfied and herein lies the problem," Colton argued to Judge John Barsanti.
Colton also said strip searches are allowed under state law to search for drugs or weapons, but Hain testified Meza was being detained for possible money laundering, a crime he was not charged with.
At the sheriff's office, Meza turned over a small bag of marijuana and three bags of methamphetamine during the strip-search.
Kane County Assistant State's Attorney Bridget Sabbia argued the search was legal based on the totality of the circumstances: inconsistent stories from passengers, Meza admitting marijuana may have been smoked prior to the arrest and him carrying money in different bundles.
Barsanti will render his decision July 22.
Meza was being held at the Kane County jail on $350,000 bail, meaning he must post $35,000 to be released while the charges are pending.